Thesis Thursday

Moving on to the 12th lecture, Walther takes careful aim at the next Thesis…

The worst fault in modern preaching, my dear friends, is this, that the sermons lack point and purpose; and this fault can be noticed particularly in the sermons of modern preachers who are believers. While unbelieving and fanatical preachers have quite a definite aim, — pity, that it is not the right one! — believing preachers, as a rule, imagine that they have fully discharged their office, provided what they have preached has been the Word of God. That is about as correct a view as when a ranger imagines he has discharged his office by sallying forth with his loaded gun and discharging it into the forest; or as when an artilleryman thinks he has done his duty by taking up his position with his cannon in the line of battle and by discharging his cannon. Just as poor rangers and soldiers as these latter are, just so poor and useless preachers are those who have no plan in mind and take no aim when they are preaching. Granted their sermons contain beautiful thoughts; they do not, for that matter, take effect. They may occasionally make the thunders of the Law roll in their sermons, yet there is no lightning that strikes. Again, they may water the garden assigned to them with the fructifying waters of the Gospel, but they are pouring water on the beds and the paths of the garden indiscriminately, and their labor is lost.

Neither Christ nor the holy apostles preached in that fashion. When they had finished preaching, every hearer knew: He meant me, even when the sermon had contained no personal hints or insinuations. For instance, when our Lord Christ had delivered the powerful, awful parable of the murderous vine-dressers, the high priests and scribes confessed to themselves: He means us. When the holy Apostles Paul, on a certain occasion, had preached before the profligate and unjust Governor Felix concerning righteousness, temperance, and the Judgment to come, Felix perceived immediately that Paul was aiming his remarks ant him. He trembled, but being unwilling to be converted, he said to Paul: “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” But he never did call him. He had heard the sermon suited to his spiritual condition, and Paul’s well-aimed remarks had struck home.

The reason, then, my dear friends, why in the Lutheran congregations of our former home country Germany unbelieving preachers are nearly always in the ascendancy is unquestionably this: the sermons of the Christian preachers are aimless efforts. Unbelievers are increasing in the congregations about as fast as the Christian preachers are increasing, of whom there are considerably more now than when I was young. Why do they accomplish nothing? Oh, would to God that these dear men had the humility to sit down at Luther’s feet and study his postils! They would learn how to preach effectively. For the Word of God, when preached as it should be, never returns void.

May God help you in your future ministry not to become aimless prattles, so that you will have to complain that you accomplished so little, when nobody but yourselves is at fault because you have no definite aim when preparing your sermons and do not reflect: To such and such people I want to drive home a lesson, — not this or that person whom I am going to name, but persons in whose condition I know to be such and such.

However, while it is important that your sermons do not lack a special aim, it is equally important that your aim be the right one. If you do not aim properly, your preaching, after all, will be useless, whether you preach the Law or the Gospel.

Thesis VIII.

In the fourth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror an account of their sins or the Gospel to those who live securely in their sins.

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27 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. Echo_ohcE says:

    Since I’m being obnoxious lately, I’ll stick a fly in everyone’s ointment.

    1Pet 1:25 says: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” And of course, “good news” here is gospel (euangelo – actually the verb, euangelizo). So Peter is saying, and “this Word is the gospel that was preached to you.”

    So now comes the irritating question. What does the word “this” refer to? In the context, it clearly refers to the section that precedes it. I am speaking of course of vv.3-25. So Peter’s saying, here’s the gospel that you have already heard, but I’m reminding you of it. And then chapter 2, the next verse right after the one I’ve quoted from, goes on to say, “Therefore…” followed by commands to lay sin aside and be pure, etc.

    So then it seems that in v.25, Peter defines “gospel” by the content of vv.3-25. But, uh oh, there’s a problem.

    1Pet 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

    Clearly, this is a “law” passage. But it’s included in the section of which Peter says that this is the gospel that was preached already to them. Peter, apparently, has failed to distinguish between law and gospel properly. And he seems confused again in 1Pet 4:17. Paul suffers from similar confusion between law and gospel in 2Thess 1:8. How can these Apostles speak of obeying the gospel if the gospel is properly defined as what Jesus has done for us, the unconditional promise of salvation through the shed blood of Christ?

    Turretin, that great reformed scholar, wrote of two different kinds of conditions in the covenant of grace. For Turretin, the covenant of grace is not at all unconditional. In the first place, you have to have faith in Christ in order to inherit the blessings of the covenant, namely eternal life. This is obvious. Of course, this faith is a gift from God – nevertheless, you have to have this faith yourself; God does not have faith for you. So this condition IN YOU must be met before you can inherit the blessings of the covenant. Turretin calls this an antecedent condition, because it comes BEFORE you can inherit the blessings of salvation.

    But there is also another KIND of condition, namely a concomitant condition. A concomitant condition refers to something that would necessarily in all cases accompany the blessings of salvation. This condition is fulfilled alongside of salvation. And this refers to repentance and good works. If there is no fruit of salvation, there is no salvation. Thus it is proper to say that this is a condition that must be met in us, as the author to Hebrews says, “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” It’s not an antecedent condition, but a concomitant condition. That distinction is incredibly important. (By the way, I recently spoke of this during my licensure exam, and it was VERY well received by the presbytery, so don’t imagine that this is some obscure idea.)

    So rather than distinguishing between “law” (which commands) and “gospel” (which only gives), why not rather distinguish between indicative and imperative? Or why not distinguish carefully between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, or between Moses and Christ? There’s lots of room to make sharp, clear and necessary distinctions between these.

    But if we say that we must distinguish sharply between the law and the gospel, the former demanding, the latter only giving, don’t we give the impression that Christ only gives to us without placing any demands upon us? But there are demands placed upon us, and in fact, this is the meat and potatoes of the Christian life!

    In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t say, “Going, baptizing, make disciples of all nations, teaching them to believe everything I have taught you.” No, he said that the mission of the church was to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to OBEY everything he had taught them. For Jesus, when it came to what he thought ought to be the content of what is taught in the churches, the emphasis was on obedience.

    According to many peoples’ definitions, this would make Jesus a moralist, whose preaching should be rejected.

  2. RubeRad says:

    That doesn’t sound like you, Echo, are you being devil’s advocate here?

    So then it seems that in v.25, Peter defines “gospel” by the content of vv.3-25. But, uh oh, there’s a problem.

    Maybe it just goes back to the more immediate context of v23:

    since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

    And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

  3. Echo_ohcE says:

    First of all, know, I’m not playing devil’s advocate. I’m being totally serious.

    Second, the phrase is perhaps a bit misleading in English. The Greek says, “And this is the word that was preached to you” where “preached” means to preach the gospel. As I said above, it’s the verbal form of the noun “gospel”.

    Anyway, the following comes from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology from the following link:

    “Some of the older Reformed theologians represented the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. They thought of the law as embodying all the demands and commandments of Scripture, and of the gospel, as containing no demands whatsoever, but only unconditional promises; and thus excluded from it all requirements. This was partly due to the way in which the two are sometimes contrasted in Scripture, but was also partly the result of a controversy in which they were engaged with the Arminians. The Arminian view, making salvation dependent on faith and evangelical obedience as works of man, caused them to go to the extreme of saying that the covenant of grace does not require anything on the part of man, does not prescribe any duties, does not demand or command anything, not even faith, trust, and hope in the Lord, and so on, but merely conveys to man the promises of what God will do for him. Others, however, correctly maintained that even the law of Moses is not devoid of promises, and that the gospel also contains certain demands. They clearly saw that man is not merely passive, when he is introduced into the covenant of grace, but is called upon to accept the covenant actively with all its privileges, though it is God who works in him the ability to meet the requirements. The promises which man appropriates certainly impose upon him certain duties, and among them the duty to obey the law of God as a rule of life, but also carry with them the assurance that God will work in him “both to will and to do.” The consistent Dispensationalists of our day again represent the law and the gospel as absolute opposites. Israel was under the law in the previous dispensation, but the Church of the present dispensation is under the gospel, and as such is free from the law. This means that the gospel is now the only means of salvation, and that the law does not now serve as such. Members of the Church need not concern themselves about its demands, since Christ has met all its requirements. They seem to forget that, while Christ bore the curse of the law, and met its demands as a condition of the covenant of works, He did not fulfill the law for them as a rule of life, to which man is subject in virtue of his creation, apart from any covenant arrangement.”

    Of course, the very last comment there is a little odd, seeing as how man being subject to the law of God in virtue of his creation = the covenant of works, but other than that, what he says is appropriate.

    If you want to distinguish the gospel from the-law-as-covenant-of-works, I’m all in favor. But if the gospel is merely an unconditional promise of salvation in Christ that doesn’t demand anything of us, then I say that no such gospel exists. The only way you can reasonably talk about an unconditional promise is perhaps within the very narrow context of justification, but even there, there’s a condition of faith. So talk of unconditional promises that place no demands upon us is misleading, unhelpful and leads to antinomianism.


  4. Echo_ohcE says:

    Wow, typo.

    This sentence: “First of all, know, I’m not playing devil’s advocate” ought to read one of two ways. Either, “First of all, know that I’m not…” or “First of all, no, I’m not…” I’m not sure which I had in mind – probably both at the same time.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Well I’m totally on board with Guilt, Grace, Gratitude, the third use of the Law, etc. WCF 19.6

    Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly

    And I especially love the opening of the next paragraph: “Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it” Love that. “Sweetly comply” would be a great title for something. Maybe not a blog, but something. A book? A song?

    And since we’re following hard-core Lutherans here as they examine the law/gospel distinction, we’ll probably keep seeing more of their emphasis. I know the third use is there for them, not absent as it is often rumored. It may be too much hidden or ignored, but it is there.

  6. "Michael Mann" says:

    “And since we’re following hard-core Lutherans here as they examine the law/gospel distinction, we’ll probably keep seeing more of their emphasis. I know the third use is there for them, not absent as it is often rumored. It may be too much hidden or ignored, but it is there.”

    Yes, clearly the 3rd use is in the Lutheran standards. Can someone (is Yeazel out there?) explain why there is a common idea that there is no 3rd use? Do Lutheran pastors actually preach it less out of concern for emphasizing justification by faith? Or what is the explanation for this reputation?

  7. Zrim says:

    Who knows, but Fesko to the rescue.

  8. "Michael Mann" says:

    Thanks, Z.
    Still hoping for info on whether it is, indeed, sparsely preached upon.

  9. "Michael Mann" says:

    Interesting stuff from John Warwick Montgomery on the 3rd use:

    In 1528 — only a decade after the posting of the Ninety-five Theses — Erasmus asserted that “the Lutherans seek two things only — wealth and wives (censum et uxorem)” and that to them the Gospel meant “the right to live as they please” (letter of March 20, 1 528, to W. Pirkheimer, a fellow humanist). From that day to this Protestants have been suspected of antinomianism, and their Gospel of “salvation by grace through faith, apart from the works of the Law” has again and again been understood as a spiritual insurance policy which removes the fear of hell and allows a man to “live as he pleases.”

    The claim that Protestantism is essentially antinomian seemed to have an especially strong basis in fact in the nineteenth century. Industrialization and urbanization brought about social evils which were overlooked and rationalized by many professing Protestants. Inevitably a reaction occurred, and in the social-gospel movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries one encounters a textbook illustration of what Hegel called the antithesis.

    In its fear that Protestantism had become ethically indifferent, the social-gospel movement of Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch identified the Christian message with social ethics. From an apparent justification without sanctification, the pendulum swung to a “sanctification” which swallowed up justification. In their eagerness to bring in the kingdom of God through social action and the amelioration of the ills of the industrial proletariat, the social gospelers generally lost track of the central insight of the Reformation: that the love of Christ must constrain the Christian, and that we can experience and manifest this love only if we have personally come into a saving relationship with the Christ who “first loved us” (I John 4:19) and gave himself on the cross for us (I Peter 2:24).

  10. "Michael Mann" says:

    “At times this probIem is thought of as a conflict between Lutheranism
    and the rest of the Christian world. The Lutheran view of justification, so
    the assumption regularly goes, is both thoroughly forensic and
    untethered to any insistence on transformation, holiness, and new life.
    Pretty much everyone else insists that justification involves or implies
    renewal of life, even if it also includes a wholIy forensic element. To be
    sure, Lutherans sometimes give aid and comfort to this confessionalizing
    of the problem by insisting that any change God brings about in us
    belongs not to justification at all, but to ‘sanctification’, and that a right
    understanding of the matter must always be vigdant to distinguish
    justification from sanctification-vigilant, in other words, to keep
    transformative elements out of justification.3′”

    As much as I can discern, there probably is less emphasis on sanctification/3rd use within Lutheran churches, and the motivation for that is to ensure the centrality of justification by faith.

    There’s an interesting conversation with plenty of links at , starting the following by Bavinck:
    Lutherans almost exclusively have an eye for the accusing and condemning function of the law and therefore know no higher bliss than deliverance from the law. Law is necessary only because of sin. In the state of perfection, there is no law. God is free from the law; Christ was in no way subject to the law for himself; the believer is no longer subject to the law. Granted, Lutherans do speak of a threefold use of the law, not only of a political, that is, civil, use for the purpose of restraining sin, and of a pedagogical use to arouse the knowledge of sin, but also of a didactic use of the law to be a rule of life for believers. This last use [Third Use], however, is solely necessary since and insofar as believers still continue to be sinners and have to be restrained by the law and led to a continuing knowledge of sin. By itself, when faith and grace come on the scene the law expires and loses all its meaning.

  11. Echo_ohcE says:

    If law is defined as what God demands, and if gospel is defined as what God gives, then the promises of salvation become unconditional.

    The problem with this is that they are not unconditional. Faith and works are conditions of salvation, as Turretin says, but bear in mind that they are two different kinds of conditions (faith as antecedent, prior to, and works as concomitant or accompanying). No faith, no salvation. No good works, no repentance, no salvation.

    But some object that the thief on the cross had no good works. To that I respond that he sure did have a good work, namely the rebuke of the other thief and his very public confession of his own deservedness of death and of Christ’s innocence. We speak of sinning in thought, word and deed. This man did good in thought and in word, even if not in deed.

    And if the law is defined as what God demands, and the gospel is defined as what God gives, then what will happen to preaching? We are charged with preaching “the gospel”, right? So then, the task of the preacher will be to explain to the congregation how this particular text testifies to the gospel. And if the gospel is defined as unconditional promise, then every passage must be made to conform to this. Then the preaching of the preacher who thus defines law and gospel will become all about what God has done and unconditional promises, and it will neglect our obligations.

    The problem with this should be obvious. Not only does it make the preaching imbalanced, but the POINT of every text isn’t an unconditional promise. Sometimes the point of the text is what we should be doing in response to what God has done for us.

    Should we very carefully distinguish between what God has done for us and what we are obligated to do for him? YES. That’s a very important distinction. Should we maintain that our works have NO ROLE in earning justification? Yes! Should we also affirm that our good works don’t earn us a place in heaven? Yes.

    But we have to have good works. In what sense are we obligated to have good works? How can we answer “yes” when we are asked, “Do we have to obey God?” if the promises of God are unconditional? If the promise of salvation is unconditional, in what sense do we HAVE to obey God?

    This is a very careful line that must be walked very delicately. It’s terribly easy to fall on one side or the other. But we have no choice but to affirm that if you refuse to repent and lay sin aside, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Scripture is crystal clear on this point. Our salvation is conditioned upon faith and repentance/good works; faith is an antecedent condition, good works are concomitant (necessarily come along with).

    This is not to say, “Do I have enough good works?” No – it’s not the amount or quality of your good works. It’s a simple yes or no. It’s a 1 or a 0, like a computer. You either have SOME good works and fruit of repentance or you have NONE. If you have SOME, it’s the fruit of the Spirit and it fulfills the condition, serving as evidence of your faith which lays hold of the merits of Christ by which we are justified. But if you have NONE, you do not have the Spirit, you are not saved.

    Turretin’s system of different kinds of conditions is NOT Roman Catholic dogma that makes justification dependent upon works (as an antecedent condition). Nor is it antinomianism that throws out our need to repent and grow in obedience altogether. Turretin’s explanation does justice to the text of Scripture and is in keeping with the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the traditions of the Reformed churches. It may make Lutherans squeamish, but then, so does the doctrine of election, the doctrine of a finite location of Jesus Christ (whose presence is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit) and irresistible grace.

    Reformed people who are uncomfortable with a sharp distinction between law and gospel are uncomfortable with it for this reason. It lends itself to an understanding of the covenant of grace as unconditional.

    I know it lends itself to this because that’s what it did in me. My preaching didn’t become antinomian per se, but I tried to force every passage to conform to my idea of what every passage must be saying. I thought that the point of every text was to bear witness in some way to what Christ has done for us (gospel, not law). If it’s a law passage, we have failed to fulfill it and thus we need Christ to fulfill it for us, which he has already done. I never wanted to preach about what we must do. So I’m not just theorizing. I’m speaking from experience.

    So let’s distinguish sharply between what we believe and what Rome believes. Let’s make sure we’re not saying what the New Perspective on Paul or Federal Vision is saying. Let’s be sure to distinguish properly between the covenants of works and grace, between the Mosaic administration and the new administration in the Church age. Let’s distinguish between what God has done and what we must do, and let’s be clear about just who has accomplished our salvation. Let’s distinguish carefully between indicative and imperative, and let’s shy away from moralism.

    But let’s not define the gospel as an unconditional promise and distinguish it sharply from the law. There remains a law in the covenant of grace. And sinners who refuse to repent will not inherit the promises.

    Now, it’s true, if someone refuses to repent until the day they die, it’s because the Spirit never quickened them, gave them faith, etc. And if the Spirit didn’t apply salvation to them, it’s because they were not elect from the foundation of the world, etc. All true. And this is why some people want to talk about the promises being unconditional, because God is the one who elected us, the Son is the one who died for us and accomplished salvation for us, and the Spirit is the one who works faith in us, reforming our desires by convicting us of our sin and causing us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is only because of the work of God in us that we want to repent or obey or believe or any of it. So God is truly the one responsible for any condition that must be met in me if I am to be saved. All very true.

    But now take your next breath. If you had not taken that breath, you would eventually die. It’s proper to say that your life is contingent upon your continuing to breathe. If you stop breathing, you will die, if you keep breathing, you will live (barring any other cause of death). You must meet the condition of continuing to breathe in order to continue to live. So your life is conditional, and the condition is that you must continue to do what you must in order to survive.

    But surely you believe in the doctrine of providence, that the very hairs of your head are numbered? And if so, don’t you also believe that you only take your next breath because God decreed it from the creation of the world? Ultimately, then, you taking a breath is something God has done in you, for he is the giver of life and apart from his hand in creation and providence, you would cease to exist. For he does, after all, uphold all things by the Word of his power.

    So then, your life is unconditional. It’s God who decreed that you will take your next breath. There’s nothing that you must do in order to continue to live. Your life comes from God and is a gift given to you with no conditions.

    But don’t I have to breathe?
    Yes, but that comes from God, so you aren’t doing anything to further your own survival.

    Don’t I have to eat and drink?
    Yes, but remember that God is the one who gives us our daily bread, so it all comes from him.

    But don’t I have to work to make a living to buy my daily bread, put clothes on my back and a roof over my head?
    Well, yes, but if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be given to you. So as you can surely see your survival is an unconditional gift from God, given to you by grace alone.

    You can see how this kind of reasoning wouldn’t really make much sense. Yet this is how we talk when it comes to our spiritual lives. We say that because it’s all a work of God, we don’t need to do anything but receive it and be glad. Well, but that ends up denying the reality that at least half of the New Testament is speaking about what we must do, perhaps more.

    It makes no sense, then, for the preacher to say that the gospel is defined as unconditional promise or only what God has done and then to say that his job is to preach the gospel out of every text. This undermines the point of many if not most of texts in the New Testament. This is where I was in my preaching. But it couldn’t, and thank God it didn’t, last.

  12. John Yeazel says:

    It is not an easy thing to know when to preach the Law and when to preach the Gospel. Sinners, like you and I, get good at appealing to the Gospel when they need to deal with the Law and appeal to the Law when they need to deal with the Gospel. From my experience, in various Lutheran and Calvinist churches, Calvinists have a tendency to appeal to the Law when they should be dealing with the Gospel and Lutherans appeal to the Gospel when they need to be dealing with the Law. It is rare to find a Lutheran pastor who preaches the Law forcefully and with adequate conviction. And, I would say, it is rare to find a Calvinist pastor who does not mingle and emphasize the Law over the Gospel.

  13. John Yeazel says:

    I mistakenly posted my remarks at the Fesko post

  14. John Yeazel says:

    Nice post on the 3rd use of the Law- MM; I like how Montgomery can compare modern thinking with heresy’s about justification and sanctification. Modern man has no answers for social issues when they refuse to listen to the Law and the Gospel hashed out in the experience of the reformation.

  15. John Yeazel says:

    Echo says: “This is a very careful line that must be walked very delicately. It’s terribly easy to fall on one side or the other. But we have no choice but to affirm that if you refuse to repent and lay sin aside, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Scripture is crystal clear on this point. Our salvation is conditioned upon faith and repentance/good works; faith is an antecedent condition, good works are concomitant (necessarily come along with).”

    I admire your hatred of sin but I am not sure this adequately explains man’s condition of simul iestus et peccator. Sometimes, in our struggle with sin, we have to rely on Christ’s righteousness imputed to us because our repentance finds us back struggling with the same sins. I am not sure whether your convictions will give much hope to sinners who cannot seem to shake off both sins of the flesh (self-righteous and bodily ones).

  16. John Yeazel says:

    Although, those who have a conscience, do appeal to general revelation and the natural law within to govern society. Whether this is rational or not (when there is no special revelation to appeal to) is another question.

  17. John Yeazel says:

    I would like to reword some of my last reply to your post. Man’s fallen condition is not simul iestus et peccator. Man’s fallen condition is one where he is unable to accept God’s plan of redemption for mankind through Christ. Fallen man has many redemptive plans for himself but will never accept Christ, and who He is explained to be in the Word of God, without the grace of God. When one accepts Christ and who the scriptures explain that He is, we then become simul iestus et peccator. It is here where we begin to really sense our fallen natures more forcefully and the depth and extent of our sin can be quite overwhelming at times. We often suppress this truth just as much as we suppressed the redemptive plan of God in Christ. We are under pressure to be Holy as God is Holy when the Holy Spirit leads us to accept the truths in the Word of God, and if we are honest with ourselves, we fall far short. Luther called this battle the Anfechtungen and he did some serious battle with it- often in failure, like Paul in Romans 7. He could only find relief from it in the Gospel and in the Sacraments. The Law did him no good. So, what I am trying to get across is that Christians often struggle with their sin and get little encouragement when they are fighting Romans 7 like battles. It is those who are most serious about their commitment to Christ who often fall the hardest. Often, they are never encouraged to get back up after a fall and continue the fight. What I find happens is that you do not find many of those Christians in churches on Sunday because they know they are condemned already and do not know how to deal with it properly. I think a healthy church is one where they are encouraging those who are having Romans 7 experiences to continue on in the fight and showing them how to do it over a long period of time. This is where church work can get quite messy and needs lots of wisdom in dealing with difficult cases.

  18. John Yeazel says:

    And, I might add, we can all be difficult cases, because of our still indwelling sin, at times.

  19. John Yeazel says:

    I just reread that essay by Montgomery on the 3rd use the Law- it is a really powerful piece of writing. The work of the Law should level and break down all of us. It is reminiscent of the opening chapters of Jeremiah where God calls Jeremiah to be a hammer to smash the stubborn rock that has become God’s people. The whole book of Jeremiah is a series of comparisons and contrasts between the work of the Law and the work of the Gospel. It would probably be highly beneficial to reflect deeply in the days ahead on the book of Jeremiah.

  20. Echo_ohcE says:

    John, thanks for your comments.

    I guess my response would be to ask you to help me understand how what I was saying (when all taken together) amounts to something other than what is said here, for example:

    Heb. 10:26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

    In my opinion, this business about “sinning deliberately” should be understood as a refusal to repent. Please don’t underestimate my use of the word “refusal”. I’m not talking about someone who’s struggling with sin. I’m talking about someone who refuses to struggle with sin. If you refuse to repent (repentance doesn’t mean becoming sinless), you will not be saved.

    Granted, repentance/good works is a necessary result of faith. It’s the result of the Spirit’s work in us. But nonetheless, no one repents for me. The Spirit doesn’t repent FOR me. I must repent. I must struggle against my sin.

    It is absolutely true to say that our salvation is entirely the work of God. But it is also true that if I do not repent, I will not be saved. Therefore, if I would be saved, I must repent. This is why Jesus went around saying, “Repent and believe.”

    I guess my problem that I’m wrestling with currently is, if we say that the gospel is an unconditional promise of salvation, then aren’t we also saying that the covenant of grace is unconditional? And if so, how can we speak out the other side of our mouths and say, “You must repent.” Why must I repent?

    Heb 10 above gives an answer: if you don’t repent, you shouldn’t think you’ll be spared the coming wrath of God, because there’s no longer a sacrifice for sins for you, just a fearful expectation of judgment.

    My point is just that I’ve been oversimplifying things in my thinking for far too long, and I’m not going to do it anymore. I will no longer affirm that the law only demands and the gospel only provides and never the two shall meet, because in the new covenant under Christ, there very much ARE demands placed upon us.

    So then, how are we simultaneously just and sinner? Because we are judicially counted righteous in Christ based on the merits of Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. So our place in heaven is secure.

    But here’s the difference between an antecedent condition and a concomitant condition. Perhaps I didn’t explain the distinction well, but I do wish to highlight the importance of the distinction.

    Antecedent: counted righteous in Christ with faith being the only precondition for this.

    Concomitant: if I do not repent, if I do not have SOME good works (yes or no, not a matter of HOW MUCH), then it is a sign that the antecedent condition has not been met. If the concomitant condition is not met, it means the antecedent condition has not been met.

    Consider a campfire. Smoke doesn’t burn the wood. If you want to burn the wood, you don’t need smoke, you need fire. But if there’s no smoke, how can you say that there’s a fire taking place? So you have to admit that smoke is a necessary concomitant condition for the burning of wooden logs in a campfire, even if the smoke doesn’t accomplish the burning, but only accompanies it necessarily. If there’s no smoke, there’s no fire. If there’s no repentance, there’s no salvation.

  21. RubeRad says:

    if we say that the gospel is an unconditional promise of salvation, then aren’t we also saying that the covenant of grace is unconditional?

    Don’t forget, Lutherans reject limited atonement. They believe that Jesus died for every sin of every person ever, and every sin ever is forgiven. Unconditionally. And yet to avoid universalism, they distinguish between universal objective justification, vs. subjective (i.e. effectual?) justification for some. We talked about that here and there. I still haven’t figured out what those Lutes are talking about.

  22. Echo_ohcE says:

    The essence of the Lutheran take on that Rube, is that for them, grace is always resistible. So God gives everyone grace, say in the sacraments, but they can always resist it. This kind of thinking also applies to the atonement. And of course, they end up having to say this because of their insistence that Christ is physically present in, around and under the elements in the Supper. It IS, in an objective sense, the body of Christ, so whether or not grace is conveyed in it can’t be determined by the faith of the partaker. So you can see where one misconception leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another. Which is why everyone should simply adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith. 🙂

  23. katy says:

    Ed Engelbrecht has a new book coming out this year, Friends of the Law (CPH). This Lutheran is looking forward to reading it.

  24. John Yeazel says:

    Echo says: “It is absolutely true to say that our salvation is entirely the work of God. But it is also true that if I do not repent, I will not be saved. Therefore, if I would be saved, I must repent. This is why Jesus went around saying, “Repent and believe.”

    From what I understand, Lutherans believe that faith and repentance are gifts that we cannot generate within ourselves. Without the work of the Holy Spirit applying the Law and the Gospel into our subjective being from outside of us we would not repent and believe. You almost sound like repentance is something I generate within myself independant of the work of the Holy Spirit. It does seem that we can resist repentance and faith (because of our still indwelling sin) but if we are faithful in listening to the Law and the Gospel and partaking of the Sacraments the Holy Spirit overcomes our weak repentance and faith over a number of years of working on us. So, if one is having trouble with his lack of repentance and weak faith the answer is to continue sitting under the means of grace and allow them to do their work in us.

    Echo also states: “My point is just that I’ve been oversimplifying things in my thinking for far too long, and I’m not going to do it anymore. I will no longer affirm that the law only demands and the gospel only provides and never the two shall meet, because in the new covenant under Christ, there very much ARE demands placed upon us.”

    Again, you sound like you can meet those demands (of the Law) independantly of God’s continuous and faithful work on us as we place ourselves under the whole counsel of God. This does get into the free will and moral responsibility debate which also gets to be a confusing problem. And it sounds like you don’t really agree with Walthers distinctions of Law and Gospel. Yes, there are demands placed on us but our following through on these demands are filled with filthy rags and one would think that we really have not repented. That is the problem I see with your position. You never really know if you have repented deeply enough because we still have problems obeying these demands like Jesus did.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    I’m not sure how to answer that one Echo but it does fascinate me why the Lutherans so stubbornly placed their stake in the ground and would not move against the Calvinists. I have not been able to figure it out- have you? They debated these things for a good 100 years after the reformation and it seems both sides finally gave up. There has been some interest lately in trying to reconcile these differences.

  26. John Yeazel says:

    I am also not sure if the differences between Calvinists and Lutherans are really that critical (regarding the sacraments, atonement, predestination and perseverance of the saints). Lutherans are more sacramental and Calvinists emphasis is on the Word of God and the whole counsel of God. To tell you the truth, I would not have trouble going to a OPC church I think both Lutherans and OPC Calvinists understanding of justification and sanctification are pretty much the same. Enlighten me where you think I might be wrong.

  27. John Yeazel says:

    There is supposed to a period in those those two sentences I wrote in my last post. I also think the TULIP frame is a bad way to argue doctrine. It has given Calvinists a bad name and the subtle nuances of doctrine are not picked up in TULIP. Better to stick with the ordo salutis as they have been doing over at Old Life. It is also helpful to define the distinctions between the Law and the Gospel, the role of each and how those distinctions effect our life in Christ and spiritual growth. But Echo, you seem to be implying that you do not like how the distinctions between the Law and the Gospel have been worked out by the Reformers- both Calvinists and Lutherans.

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